Duquette on second base, pitching and more

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - There wasn't much news to come out of tonight's media session with Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette. He went over the same shopping list that's been published here - starting pitching, closer, left fielder, left-handed bat - and he didn't bring up specific free agents despite his earlier appearance on MLB Network Radio.

When I mentioned how Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden tweeted the Orioles' interest in Raul Ibanez, and their apparent lack of interest in Kendrys Morales, Duquette laughed and said, "They mentioned a lot of players. It's not appropriate for me to talk specifically about players.

"I did say we wouldn't be participating in the posting system. The Orioles won't be participating in that market."

Duquette said the door wasn't "necessarily" closed on re-signing second baseman Brian Roberts, but he ran down the list of in-house candidates, starting with Ryan Flaherty.

"We got really good work out of Flaherty at second base, not only defensively, but he hit the ball well the second half of the season," Duquette said. "He made better contact, he made more consistent contact, and he played very good defense."

Duquette also mentioned Jemile Weeks and Cord Phelps, but Flaherty appears to be the leading in-house candidate.

"I think we have some options at second base already on the club," Duquette said.

The Orioles would prefer to have Jonathan Schoop start the season at Triple-A Norfolk.

"He probably could benefit from more experience before he's called on to be an everyday player in the big leagues, but he's a very capable second baseman," Duquette said.

Trading closer Jim Johnson to the A's allowed the Orioles to "reallocate their resources." Does that money get pumped back into the starting rotation? Does it go toward free agency?

"We're going to use it to hire players, and if we were to trade for a player who had a significant salary, some of that resource could go to that," Duquette said. "Specifically, we're going to utilize it to add some depth to our pitching staff. It's real easy to think about it that way. You take that money and redeploy it to other pitchers.

"I think we'll be able to add a couple of players to our ballclub to strengthen our team. There are a couple pitchers who are closers on the market, and I think that some of them will sign for significantly less than $10 million a year.

"We've talked to a number of free agents on the pitching front over the weekend and that market's moving pretty quick, but we have a couple offers out to some pitchers."

Asked to clarify, Duquette said both starters and relievers.

Duquette rattled off the names of young pitchers in the organization, including Kevin Gausman, Eduardo Rodriguez, Mike Wright and Tim Berry.

"Internal pitching coming up that's available to help and support the team, as well as more established pitching already in Baltimore. It's a little bit stronger than it has been in the last couple years at this time of the year," Duquette said.

"If we're going to be successful, we're going to have to develop additional starting pitchers to come up through our farm system to make an impact on the major league team. That's where the Orioles are going to get value from their pitching program. It's not going to come from high priced free agents. So, if people are expecting the Orioles to go out and sign a significant pitcher, I think it's more realistic to look for good pitchers to come up through the farm system.

"Frankly, I think we have more starting pitching depth going into this year than we've had the last couple years. We have some qualified starters already on the team and some pitchers in the minors ready to supplement our team. That wasn't the case last year."

In other words, you can stop asking me about Matt Garza.

Asked if he's under more pressure to make a big splash here because of the flurry of activity over the past few weeks, Duquette replied, "Our work really is still the same. We're going to continue to build and add value to our team where we see it - the trade market, the signing market. We're going to sign a few more players."

As far as finding a left-handed hitter or two, Duquette said, "We do have some trade partners we need to connect with the first couple of days down here. That's possible we could address that need through trade. That's a possibility. We need to really explore that. There are a couple hitters who are still available on the market who could fit onto our ballclub."

Duquette continues to talk up newly acquired outfielder Francisco Peguero.

"He has good ability, he has good tools," Duquette said. "He can run, throw and field, and he can hit. The only thing he lacks is power. We like him. He's kind of a scout's player, he's a toolsy player. He'll be a good addition to the team because he can play all three outfield positions and he's a .300 lifetime hitter in the minors. He lacks power and really opportunity.

"The fact he can play center field, and left and right very well, is a good complement to our ballclub. He profiles as a potential everyday ballplayer because he can hit both right and left handed pitching. In fact, he hits right-handed pitching very well. He was a highly rated prospect in the Giants system for a number of years, and now he looks like he's about ready for the big leagues. He'll get an opportunity with us in spring training and show what he has."

The Rule 5 draft is Thursday, and as I've written, the Orioles figure to select another player.

"We have some names to go through in the Rule 5 draft," Duquette said. "We've got to take a hard look at that and see if we can add a player who can help us. We'll meet on that in the next couple of days."

That's it for now. Nothing that's going to soothe the frazzled nerves of Orioles fans.

"We're going to continue working on our ballclub and build our team," Duquette said. "We'll be looking to add additional players to our roster - hopefully a left-handed hitter - this week. We have an opening in left field and also a DH that we'd like to address. And we'd also like to add to our pitching depth, and if we could get a quality pitcher or two, that would be terrific. The challenge of that is were looking for pitching, along with (29) other teams, right? But that's a fairly focused list and we'll see how it goes."


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